Millionaire faces scrutiny from law enforcement after burning $10 million artwork in an NFT stunt
Martin Mobarak is the CEO and founder of Frida.NFT, a blockchain project that aims to reform the charity industry “through increased transparency, donation frequency, and donor incentive.” In July, the art collector and crypto millionaire invited a select few to his Miami mansion for a party celebrating the launch of his exclusive NFT collection.
While it is not uncommon for people to hold parties for different events, Martin has caught the attention of Mexican authorities after he pulled a rather unnecessary stunt. He filmed himself burning a $10 million work by renowned painter Frida Kahlo, an act that has not just angered officials in the late artist’s homeland of Mexico but has pushed them to begin investigations into the matter.
The stunt was meant to promote the sale of digital versions of the rare work, which is considered a national treasure in Mexico. Martin’s Frida.NFT features 10,000 digital copies of Fantasmones Siniestros (Sinister Ghosts), a colorful artwork drawn by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in 1944.
During the event, the millionaire showcased what looked like original artwork placed on a martini glass filled with dry ice and fuel. It was then promptly set ablaze.
Following the stunt, Frida.NFT claims that the artwork has “transitioned into the metaverse.” Collectors can purchase a copy of the now tokenized artwork for 3 ETH or about $4,000 as of press time.
A percentage of the proceeds from the NFT sales will be channeled into the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico, Coyoacan’s Frida Kahlo Museum, the Autism Society, and several charity organizations dedicated to medical care for children.
“We’re going to change the lives of thousands of children,” Mobarak said before burning the artwork in front of his guest. “I hope everyone can understand it and I hope everyone can see a positive side to the legacy this is going to leave.”
Stunt gone wrong?
Martin’s NFT stunt quickly went viral and on Monday, Mexico’s National Institute of Fine Arts announced that it was opening an investigation into the destruction of the drawing.
“In Mexico, the deliberate destruction of an artistic monument constitutes a crime in terms of the federal law on archaeological, artistic, and historical monuments and zones,” officials stated.
To set things in motion, the institute will first try to determine the provenance of Mubarak’s drawing, which Frida.NFT claims was verified by Mexican art dealer Andres Siegel on the day of the burning. The certificate of authentication confirmed that the burned artwork matches Kahlo’s style and materials, adding that the “work on paper corresponds to a page torn from Frida Kahlo’s diary (1944-1945).”
It is not yet clear how far the Mexican authorities are willing to pursue the case. But in the meantime, Martin, who describes himself as an “art alchemist transforming physical art into digital gold,” says he will be burning other art pieces from his private collection and turning them into NFTs.
Fantasmones Siniestros was last valued at over $10 million. The artwork was originally gifted to Venezuelan art critic Juan Rohl. It came into the hands of a gallery in New York and was sold to the Vergel Foundation in 2004. In 2013, a private collector purchased the art piece.
While several art collectors are in doubt over the authenticity of Martin’s burnt artwork, the millionaire claims he purchased the work in 2015 from the New York gallery, called Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art.